From left, Kelly Gibson, Rachel Israel and Jazzy Williams-Smith react to parts during a rehearsal of "the Vagina Monologues" at McDaniel College in Westminster Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015.
From left, Kelly Gibson, Rachel Israel and Jazzy Williams-Smith react to parts during a rehearsal of "the Vagina Monologues" at McDaniel College in Westminster Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (DYLAN SLAGLESTAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

Despite being written almost 20 years ago, controversial play "The Vagina Monologues" remains relevant to culture today, said Kristen Gindlesperger, director of McDaniel College's upcoming production.

McDaniel has hosted a performance of the 1996 play by Eve Ensler annually for the past dozen years. The show consists of a number of monologues dealing with a variety of issues affecting women, including rape and domestic violence as well as lighter pieces about sex and feminism as well.

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Rebecca Carpenter, an associate professor at McDaniel who has taken part in each production, said people often don't realize how funny the show can be. She said her first experience with the play was transformative.

"I had read it, prior to it being produced here, and was absolutely electrified by it. It was so entertaining and so informative," Carpenter said. "It's extremely funny, with some very entertaining monologues on top of the thematic content."

This year's show is being directed by Gindlesperger, a McDaniel junior from Dundalk, who performed in the show last year.

Gindlesperger said this was her first time directing a theatrical show, and so far the experience has gone well. A history major, Gindlesperger said it was her own feminist values that first brought her to last year's performance of "The Vagina Monologues."

"It tries to empower women and tell women it's OK to talk about yourself and be able to express what it's like to be a woman and all of the issues that go into being a woman," Gindlesperger said. "It's definitely resonant to what it's like to be a woman today."

Carpenter said the show's continuing relevance in today's culture both speaks volumes about the timelessness of the writing as well as the unfortunate and continuing prevalence of these issues in modern society.

"In some ways, I feel there has been some progress on some of these issues. I think there is a somewhat greater degree of openness in terms of discussing issues of rape, incest and domestic violence than we would have had 20 or 30 years ago," Carpenter said. "That being said, these issues are still very much with us."

Carpenter said it's rare to follow the news for a month without coming across stories that involve violence against women.

"Whether it's the rape allegations against Bill Cosby, an NFL star punching his significant other until they're knocked unconscious or stories of underreporting rapes on college campuses, these are the conversations we're having," Carpenter said. "The fact that we're having these conversations at all is very salutary, but the fact that these crimes and violations are still going on is a sad reflection of where we are."

The money the show raises will go toward the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County and the Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland. Together, these nonprofits focus on helping those dealing with sexual assaults, domestic violence, the need for counseling and more.

Gindlesperger said it is important to support the causes spoken about in the play financially. Carpenter said these organizations provide vital services to the county.

"A lot of people feel like domestic violence and rape only happen somewhere else, in places and neighborhoods unlike the nice town we live in," Carpenter said. "Having a show like this is a way to create a space to talk about these issues, and keep them from being swept under the rug. I think that's tremendously important."

Carpenter said she's been impressed with the support the show has been given by Carroll County residents over the year.

"It makes a great date night or even a girl's night out," Carpenter said. "I think people who have never seen it will be surprised both at the parts they'll find amusing, but also at the parts that are incredibly real and searing."

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Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

If you go

What: "The Vagina Monologues"

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6 and Saturday, Feb. 7

Where: WMC Alumni Hall, McDaniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster

Cost: $10 general public, $5 for students, staff and faculty members

For more information: Visit mcdaniel.edu or call 410-857-2530.

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